|READER MESSAGES Feb-Apr 2003|
From: Gloria Goldman
Your article The Magic of Manchester moved me more than I can say - One of my most intense and frequently appearing dreamscapes is the words GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY etched hugely on a distant wall, black with soot, seen from the windows of an ancient ballet studio at the top of a Deansgate building. Another is the #23 bus to Flixton looming out of the fog on Portland street, or the tiny, elderly, red-eyed attendant in the ladies cloakroom at Central Station, who always gave me a half crown (out of her enormous riches, no doubt) to send me on my way to school in London at the beginning of every term.
Your description of the excitement of riding the buses round Christmas
streets with the magic of lit shop windows brought back such intense memories
it was actually painful. These images (and yes, their accompanying musical
soundtracks) seem to belong to another universe, irrelevant to anyone
I currently associate with. Thank you for connecting me again. And your
photographs are extremely beautiful.
PS, I forgot to mention the music
Thank you very much for your kind comments. I've had very little response from this piece so far - Pity because it explains the motivation for Eyewitness in Manchester and tells a story I've been waiting to tell for nearly 40 years! The letters you remember are on the side of the Great Northern Railway Goods Warehouse, which now houses an entertainment complex.
Nice One, Aidan!
you very much for your comments. Smells as you say are another stimulus
for memories. A web-linked virtual smell generator has already been invented,
sowhat smells could evoke Manchester of past years? The sweet oily smell
of steam engines, the smell of leather and wood inside the older buses
- You can still experience this at the Museum of Transport on Boyle Street
- the smell of the murky River Irwell now almost drinkable! Today's Manchester
is short on ambient fragrances - not like the Middle East or Paris. Thanks
for your message.
From: Gordon Simpson
Dear Aidan congratulations on another interesting feature on music in Manchester. In my early childhood I spent time with my parents in Market St and the song Downtown was in my mind then as it is now.
The Salford slums of 70s industry with its old factories and canals conjured up Ewan McColls Dirty Old Town. I also associate many others, these are merely two of many.
Yes, Downtown is still a classic, just as powerful today as it was then. Ewan McColl's song is certainly suitable for Salford, though for me it has associations with Ireland. Music conjures up pictures in the mind's eye. It's a very presonal thing, but sometimes particular songs conjure up the same thing for different people, like Downtown and Market St.
Subject: Life in the sticks where Dundalk rhymes with walk
Going back to your article with its musical memories; In my teens and
twenties I had a great pal named Johnny McCann with whom I played soccer,
cricket, swam and played darts for a pub team. Johnny and I also used
to sing together informally in pubs. We would get a bit of Dutch courage
inside us and then launch into songs such as "Cathy's Clown"
by the Everly Bros,"Let's Have a Party" and "Stuck on You"
(Elvis) etc. This was 1960. Our haunts included the Transvaal pub which
used to be on Clarendon Street, Hulme, I think, and the Shakespeare on
Stretford Road. Funnily enough, we didn't receive any abuse for our a
capella singing and in fact several times people would join in and at
the end of the evening said "thanks for the music lads". Johnny
had won a prize when he was younger for singing. I was just learning to
play guitar in those days. I later in life wrote songs and sang on a demo
in London and also played lead guitar in two bands.
Subject: Whitworth Street School
Subject: The Wash Houses
Interesting - The wash houses pre-date the launderettes, which arrived I believe in the 1950's. Does anyone remember the 'wash houses' in Cheetham Hill or nearby?
Lady Shena Simon was a distinguished councillor and local personality who did a lot to help education in Manchester, particularly as a member of the Education Committee. Coming originally from the south of England, she said she had 'fallen in love' with the city on day she arrived. She worked in the 1920's to persuade Mcr to buy Wythenshawe estate. She was Lady Mayoress of Mcr in 1921-22 and elected to the city council as representative for Chorlton Ward. She was given the Freedom of the City in April 1964. Thanks to the friendly staff at the Central Library Archives and Local Studies Unit for helping me to find this information - It's in a book of cuttings which you can request from the desk.
I thought you might be interested in my opinion because I have just visited the city centre for the first time in about 15 years, and there is nothing like a long absence to bring things into the sharpest focus (I think I heard you say pretty much the same thing in your contribution to the Urbis "City Voices" display).
Like you, I was a teenager in the Seventies and spent much of my spare time in the city centre. I would hang around record stores and I used to tour the guitar shops with my best mate Ian - I didn't have a clue how to play them, but, as they say these days, it was "cool" being associated with someone who could pluck "Stairway to Heaven" on a Fender Stratocaster!
There were two places in particular that I loved to visit. One was a joke shop in (I think) Tib Street and the other was the old Central Station - it was being used as a car park, but you could still see the platforms, long-forgotten posters and other station relics. It was a magical place - you could almost smell the steam from long-departed engines.
Anyway, to get to the point, my memory of Piccadilly features orange and white buses circling the beautiful Piccadilly Gardens. I remember the familiar sights of Piccadilly Plaza, Lewis's and even good old Woolies opposite my old bus stop.
For me, Piccadilly was the base camp for my expeditions into the city. I would hop off the "125" bus from Glossop, grab a coffee in a now boarded-up cafe in the Plaza and venture forth. There was something reassuring about Piccadilly.
Today, it has the opposite effect. It is a soulless wasteland of concrete as alienating as it used to be welcoming. When I saw Piccadilly for the first time last weekend, the violence of the changes took my breath away. The new office development is a criminal invasion, the meaningless pavilion has ripped through the heart of the old gardens, the statues look lost in the bland expanse of grass and the fountains are a tacky addition, lacking in style.
And, even though I am a fan of the trams, the acres of track bed and the ugly platforms alongside the Plaza and at the beginning of Market Street complete a sorry, desolate picture (couldn't something be done to make them more visually appealing?).
I think the Piccadilly redevelopment serves as a demonstration of the worst excesses of planners. But I am staggered that no one, at any time during the planning process, was able to apply the brakes. As I think you say in your presentation at Urbis, the inability to consider the future seems to be a flaw in the Mancunian make-up.
Nevertheless, despite this (albeit major) blot on the landscape, I was delighted with the rest of my visit. Redevelopment elsewhere has produced some wonderful results - Albert Square, St Anne's Square and the Cathedral area are all splendid sights and Piccadilly Station is absolutely magnificent. It was great to see such a confident Manchester - a fine city asserting itself.
Unfortunately, the down down side of such assertiveness is that, when the planners get things wrong, failure can be spectacular. In my opinion, Piccadilly is the prime example and, sadly, there is no going back.
Anyway, I have rambled on long enough. Congratulations on a splendid
website - keep up the good work.
I bought my first guitar in 1972 from my school mate Mark Linehan, who lived on Birchfields Road. It was a Hofner and cost £15. Mark judged people by the guitar they owned and once remarked 'He's a nice bloke him, he's got a Fender Strat'. I believe Mark is still active on the music scene in London. I have my own thoughts on the new Piccadilly, and the building which is nearing completion. I will reserve them for a feature I'll be doing to tie in with the opening of the building. Thanks very much for your kind comments, most appreciated!
As a Police Officer, I started walking the beats in Ancoats, Clayton, Bradford and all the surrounding places in the early 1970's. I remember all the street parties for the Jubilee in 77 and the like!
I know to some, it is not so long ago but working from Mill Street police station, I still remember the folding garage doors on the building had 'M.C.A.B.' beautifully engraved on the glass. I am told it was for Manchester City Ambulance Brigade, which was manned by police officers up to the turn of the century?
My question is, does anyone remember the 'round house' it was situated on Every Street in Ancoats? I had the chance whilst policing the Commonwealth Games, to call to the site but the building has been demolished and a small round area has been left with a few badly weathered headstones.
Do you or anyone know the history of the building or persons who lived there? I could tell some stories about my time in the area but I tend to go on a bit!
Keep up the good work and fascinating column!
Subject: Pictures of Chorlton-cum-Hardy
I am planning a feature on Chorlton and will be visiting there soon, probably to go for a drink with my friend Kevin Smart, who's from Omagh Co Tyrone. Here's a photo of a road off Wilbraham Road - It's the only shot I got on a recent photo expedition to Chorlton before it clouded over! By the way, is everybody emigrating to Ireland these days?!
Subject: Deja Vu
Funnily enough, I had a conversation with one of my co-workers just yesterday about certain songs that we associate with persons, places and things. Quite a coincidence to read your EWM on that very subject. I actually cried as I recalled certain songs.
My Mother singing "Danny Boy" and "I'll take you home again, Kathleen" and teaching me "Bye Bye, Blackbird" It still brings me to tears. "When Johnny comes marching home" by the Andrew Sisters, that I associated with my oldest brother, John, a Royal Marine Commando, who was in Burma. I wrote him every day, writing with gravy browning. He told me years later that he was unable read any of them as the pages had stuck together. He passed away Sept. of 2002
"Peg O' My heart... "The girl that I marry" (We didn't, but were in touch until he passed away a few years ago) How are things in Glocamorra" My first love.
My Father, in his cups singing to my Mother "Are You lonesome tonight" and "Just a rose in a garden of weeds" Her reply "Get to bed, you drunken buggar. He was a happy drunk.
Frankie Vaughan "What's behind the Green Door" I found out....The green door to the delivery room at Crumpsall hospital.
"Rumors are flying" Anything sung by the Andrew Sisters and Bing Crosby brings memories of my oldest brother waiting up for me with a new record and rolling up the rug so that I could teach him the dance steps so that he could impress his fiancee at the company dances.
"The Last Waltz" sung by Engelbert and myself, husband and children as we were driving cross Country, only one song out of our vast repertoire.
I could name many more, but please forgive me. They invoked so many other memories that I will have to conclude this for now.
Best regards to you and your family.
Interesting to hear those song titles - Wouldn't it be nice if we could listen to them. I think most of these numbers are from a little before the era of S Club 7. Thanks very much for your thoughts!
Dear Aidan I was thinking how other areas got their names and thought I would let you and Eyewitness know a couple more . Firstly Salford gets its name from sallow ford as it was built on willows and sall is ancient English for willow and ford id a river hamlet. Rochdale means town in the valley of the river Roach. Prestwich means priests retreat probably it was a haven for fleeing priests at the time of religious persecution. Radcliffe means town on the red cliffs probably clay banks. Whitefield town on the white cotton fields. Oldham old hamlet ancient dwelling and Middleton town in the middle (Manchester and Rochdale) Dublin where you attended university is from Irish meaning black pool dubh meaning black and lihn meaning a pool possibly the Liffey. Hope this is of interest to the website . All the best from town on the woman's breast to you in the islands named after the husband of Mary 1 namely Philip of Spain \
Take care Gordon Simpson
Yes, I would love to have seen the 'breast-shaped hill' after which Manchester is named. The hill I believe would have been located near Castlefield, site of the Roman Fort, possibly overlooking the River Medlock. The breast has long since been covered over. And those islands? Yes, of course, the Philippines! Any places named after a king or queen? Victoria Park Manchester, where I live. Thanks for your message.
Subject: Finding relatives
I am very interested to find my relatives on my mom's side. The last time I placed an ad with "IN TOUCH" I did get an email from one of my cousins that I have not seen since I was nine yrs. old. It was hard to move away from England with my parents and siblings; however Canada is a beautiful country.. I hope to get back for a visit and try to track the places I use to live and go to school. It is hard to recall the name of the schools I did go to as the good old memory is not working with me.
My dad and mom ran a couple of pubs in the sixties. One was the Mechanic Arms, last name I recall since then. It was close to Piccadilly Gardens and across the road from a University. I believe it is on the same street as Woolworths....the one that I heard an explosion went off a few years ago. Could this be Oxford Road?
I would love to get some photo's of the old Hulme. I lived on 12 Marple Street before the homes were condemned. Those to me were the times I hold onto as a child's memory. It is hard to believe how well dressed my mom kept us considering the hardship, and area being such a mess from the war.
I miss my family over there. I hope to someday reunite with my cousins....the last name Degnan. I know he is in Cheadle Hulme, wherever that may be. I also enjoy your stories you get from the people that can go way back in time.
The one I really enjoyed was the elderly lady you spoke to about the past, especially pulling together how the area I grew up in for 9 yrs of my life and the areas my mother was (Longsight) and dad was from Sale. Is it not wonderful having this kind of technology to communicate around the world?! Thanks again. Theresa Casey (Brantford, Ontario Canada)
Yes, it certainly is and who could have imagined it just a few years ago. Not sure about the Mechanic Arms, can anyone help? You'll find pictures of Hulme by going to the website of the Manchester Central Library Archives and Local Studies Unit, one of my favourite places on the planet! Go to their website at www.manchester.gov.uk/arls/
Subject: Readers Letters
Aidan have enjoyed your photos for a long time but today for the first
time read your readers wives page. (sorry; Readers Letters page!)
I would love to see any scenes you may have captured on Wythenshawe and
the changes to this somewhat infamous housing estate which is still so
close to my heart.
Thanks for your message - Dubai, now there's a place I know well! Dublin too! But I still like Manchester best of all, despite the mess that's been made of parts of it...
These are questions I ask myself too, but to find definitive answers you will have to ask Manchester City Council, originators of this project, and in particular, their Chief Executive Howard Bernstein, or Sir Howard Bernstein, one of the prime movers of the Piccadilly redevelopment. Thanks for your kind comments about my website.
Thanks again from the person with the best name of all my readers, Mr Dallas d'Angelo Gary, resident in Oregon. Your name makes reference to three places in America - Dallas Texas, Gary Indiana and of course Los Angeles. Thanks for your comments about the piece. As for names with a local connection, we have of course, the famous soul singer Melissa Manchester!
Delighted to see the photo of Crumpsall Library. What a shame it is no
longer in use - where is the library now? I remember getting a special
Keep putting up the good photos - it's interesting to see how Manchester
Thanks very much - the former Crumpsall Library is currently unoccupied, as far as I can tell What a shame for such a magnificent building to be in such a state 150 years after the opening first public library in the UK - in Manchester.
Subject: Meaning of Manchester
Dear Aidan, I often wondered where the name Manchester cane from. After
a little research I discovered as is a well known Roman settlement. When
the first Roman settlers arrived in this area, they built a city in the
river valley which they felt resembled a female breast, the Latin for
which is mamma. This when added to the Latin for settlement or city -
caster - became Mammancaster: the town on the breast shaped hill.
The symbol is a bee for hard work and industry. Also there is typified
in the Manchester diocese coat of arms 3 gold bands representing the 3
rivers Irwell Irk and Medlock which since Roman times have passed via
Very interesting. Yes, I remember by Xaverian College friend Peter Scullion was also very interested in place name etymology, and use to enjoy drawing representations of the origin of the name 'Manchester' on the inside of his French vocabulary book! Yes, Scullion was from Stalybridge and had a great sense of humour. Another local place name I associate with him is 'Broadbottom', pronounced in his strong Stalybridge accent.
From: Harry Lee Mathews
You'll find references to the parachute regiment training during World War 2 in the book about the history of Manchester Airport First and Foremost
Subject: Eyewitness request
I'm in pursuit of my great great grandfather John Worrall Walker 1808-1883 who owned the Sandy Well Brewery in Salford. Do you have any photos of this area in Salford? What is there now ?
For photos of Salford, you can enquire at the Salford Local History Library, accessible via the City of Salford website www.salford.gov.uk Once this was a densely populated area of houses and factories, now it is under redevelopment - some industry is still there, the inner ring road passes through it. Like most of inner Manchester and Salford it has changed out of all recognition, even in the last 20 years or so. Thanks for your message.
Subject: My visit to Manchester